During 2014, I spent a lot of time watching Ted Talks. I love learning, creative thinking and talent, and there is no shortage of that on Ted. One of my favourite Ted Talks (along with at least 18 million other people) is Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability. It got me thinking about what businesses and their leaders could learn from the way in which the people she describes as ‘wholehearted’ live. Whether it could help businesses be ‘better’ businesses. I wondered what wholehearted connected business might look like.
Connection is why we’re here. Brene Brown.
If you haven’t watched Brene’s Ted Talk, here it is. The rest of the post might make more sense if you take a quick rewind through it. Like all Teds it’s only 20 minutes long.
So let’s take a quick recap. How do wholehearted people live and what are the benefits they derive?
- They live with Courage – where courage means leading from the heart
- The courage to accept imperfection
- The courage to be who they are, rather than who they think they ought to be
- The courage to invest in relationships which may or may not work out
- The courage to go ahead and take action even when there are no guarantees things will work out
- They live with Compassion
- They have the compassion to be kind to themselves, and thereafter to others
- They embrace Vulnerability
- They are first to say thank you, sorry, I love you.
- And in doing so, they are Connected with the full ability to empathise, belong and love.
What might a connected, wholehearted business look like?
1. It would not PRETEND that it’s products solved problems that we don’t really have, or that the products don’t really fix. It would stop pretending that what it does has no impact on people or the planet.
2. It would let itself be seen; transparent, warts and all. No spin or covering up of problems and disasters, just honest, transparent communication without seeking to paint over the cracks to divert attention.
3.It would practice Gratitude & Joy. Anything wrong with a Corporate Gratitude Diary? Ever seen one? Wouldn’t that be great – a daily record of what every company is grateful for. For customers. For its staff. For collaborative partners. For suppliers. For its leaders. For still being in business.
4. It would Be Enough. Imagine a cultural attitude that wasn’t always about more profit, more turnover, more growth. Just a celebration of being enough. For 150 years we have believed the prevailing economic mantra that says if a business isn’t growing, it’s shrinking and failing. It’s just not true. It’s a model that is all about short-term profits, and build to sell. A business can be good, good for the community, and good enough.
5. It would have the Courage to be accountable and responsible. Ready to stand up and say sorry when it gets things wrong. Ready to make amends, even when it costs hard-earned cash. It’s leaders would encourage responsibility, integrity, openness and honesty. And reward those characteristics rather than those that belong with Leo di Caprio’s Wolf of Wall Street.
5. It would no longer use fear-based marketing. Fear of disconnection shows up in us as feelings of ‘not enough’; I’m not good enough, I’m not promoted enough, I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, clever enough, successful enough, young enough, old enough, funny enough…… And what happens inside a business when marketeers recognise our fears? That’s right – they speak to them, encourage them, fan the flames and then – they provide the perfect solution. Not thin enough? Try this diet – you’ll feel so much better. Not successful enough? Take this really expensive course, you’ll soon get a promotion. Not pretty enough? What about plastic surgery?
This last one is really hard to address. So much of business is created in response to a perceived need. Our whole capitalist model is predicated on economic growth being essential to prosperity. For a market economy to grow, sales are essential. But the reality is that our economic model has led to depleted resources, climate change, repeated economic crisis, no real distribution of wealth, and a mountain of waste. It’s also helped to create people who are more in debt, more medicated, more numbed, more obese, more addicted, more distracted than at any time in our history.
I have been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s most inspiring leaders and brands. People like Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Jeff Swartz of The Timberland Company, Richard Branson at Virgin, and I’ve learned a lot about building great businesses that are socially responsible, environmentally responsible and wholly connected. That’s what I’m hoping to share with today and tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and SMEs.
Thanks to Erix for the featured image.